May 26, 2011
By Lars Perner
Q: It seems that I'll read one book about autism that says one thing, then read the exact opposite in another. About half of the things I read don't seem to apply to my son at all. About half seem to apply but, of course, not completely. Am I missing something?
A: There are large variations among people on the autism spectrum. Ironically, there may be larger variations among those on the spectrum than within the general population. This means that you will probably find some books that are very much “on target” and many more that seem very far off. Many books are written by—or about—specific individuals on the spectrum. In some of these books, you may be able to find some good “models” who match your son relatively well in many ways. Not only can these be helpful in dealing with problems that you are currently facing, they may also help you realize issues that you have not yet thought of and help you prepare for things that may come up in the future.
Q: My daughter’s teacher says that she doubts that Jenny’s “meltdowns” have anything to do with sensory overload. On some days, Jenny does well throughout the day. On other days, with no more noise or distractions, she acts out. I know that Jenny is trying hard to behave and she often comes home from school crying. What can I tell the teacher?
A: Persons on the autism spectrum often have “good” and “bad” days to a much greater extent than ordinary people do. On some days, it is going to take a lot less to trigger frustration than it will on others. Surprises and having to deal with changes can compound the exasperation of a bad day. It should also be noted that certain “sensory violations” may be much more evident to the person on the spectrum than to the detached observer; for example, other students nearby whispering to each other, a custodian handling noisy equipment in the hallway, a light flickering, or, on a rainy day, clothes giving off a vapor or making different sounds.
- Lars Perner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Marshall
School of Business, University of Southern California; Chair, Autism
Society Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism Advisors
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